Daryl Morey

Chris Paul Was “Shocked” By Trade To Thunder

Chris Paul tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he was “shocked” at the trade that sent him to Oklahoma City this summer and insists Rockets general manager Daryl Morey promised him it wouldn’t happen.

After being knocked out of the playoffs by the Warriors for a second straight year, Houston jumped at the chance to shake up its roster by acquiring Russell Westbrook from the Thunder. That meant shipping out Paul and a parcel of draft picks.

“My initial reaction?” Paul said. “I was shocked. Truth be told, I just talked to Daryl a couple days before the trade and he said he wasn’t going to trade me (to Oklahoma City). That’s funny because that is going to be the alert that pops up on everybody’s phone because nobody knows that. But what the hell, I just said it.”

Morey refused to respond to Paul’s comment, but sources close to the team told Spears that the GM informed Paul there was a “slim chance” he might be included in a Westbrook deal. Morey was hoping to make it a three-team trade and send Paul to a playoff contender such as the Heat, but no one else was willing to get involved. He also thanked Paul for his contributions to the franchise.

“Chris got us as close to winning a title as we’ve been since Hakeem Olajuwon,” Morey said. “He was a great Rocket. I wish him the best going forward. I am a big fan of Chris. I have nothing but love for him.”

Paul said his time in Houston marked two of the best seasons of his career. However, they ended in an apparent falling out with James Harden during last season’s playoffs that had many believing a breakup was coming. Paul admits he and Harden “haven’t really talked” since the trade was completed.

“It’s life. It happens,” Paul said. “It is what it is. But I wish him nothing but the best.”

The next question for Paul is how long he will be with the Thunder, who are off to an 8-11 start and appear ready to rebuild after trading Westbrook and Paul George. Although the market will open up December 15 when most of the free agents who signed this summer become eligible to be traded, Paul’s contract remains a major impediment. He makes $38.5MM this season at age 34 and is owed roughly $85.5MM over the following two seasons. Spears notes that many teams are already trying to save cap space for the next loaded free agent class in 2021.

“I try to control what I can control,” Paul said. “And for me, that is preparing to play every night. Doing my workout. Doing my training. Hooping.”

Latest On NBA/China Controversy

The storyline that dominated NBA headlines during the preseason has fallen off the radar to some extent with the regular season underway, but that doesn’t mean league and team executives aren’t still concerned about the NBA’s relationship with China.

League sources tell Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com that NBA leadership is monitoring the trade negotiations between the United States and China in the hopes that a resolution on that front will help thaw the league’s relationships in its “most profitable foreign market.” Those relationships have been frosty since Rockets general manager Daryl Morey published a tweet supporting pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

Tencent – the NBA’s streaming partner in China – has resumed broadcasting games, but still isn’t showing Rockets contests, as Arnovitz details. Meanwhile, China’s state-run network CCTV hasn’t shown any regular season games at all. While the NBA has remained in contact with CCTV officials, there’s no sense of when the impasse may be resolved.

Arnovitz’s full story at ESPN.com provides an exhaustive, in-depth look at where things stand between the NBA and China, and is worth reading in full. Here are a few more highlights from the report:

  • Terminated sponsorships with Chinese companies have affected teams around the NBA, not just the league itself, according to Arnovitz, who hears that one club immediately reduced its 2019/20 projections for revenue derived from Chinese sponsorships to zero. The Rockets have been hit particularly hard, having lost $7MM+ in cancelled sponsorship agreements for this season, and $20MM overall once multiyear deals are taken into account.
  • Beyond the financial ramifications, some NBA front offices have been “shaken by the turmoil” caused by the drama with China, league sources tell ESPN. As Arnovitz explains, the league has enjoyed increasing revenues and positive media coverage for years, but the China controversy has tested the idea that any issue can be managed.
  • Many team executives would like the league to establish guidelines for dealing with potentially sensitive political topics, since teams and players will likely have to answer those questions in the future — especially on trips to China and India, among other countries. League sources have acknowledged the need for those guidelines, Arnovitz says.
  • Rival executives don’t expect this controversy will impact Morey’s ability to do his job. However, sources close to the Rockets view the marriage of Morey and team owner Tilman Fertitta as a “tenuous fit,” according to Arnovitz. Fertitta has been more averse to paying the tax than his predecessor Leslie Alexander was, and quickly denounced Morey’s tweet last month, announcing that the GM’s views didn’t reflect that of the organization.

Rockets Notes: Morey, Offseason, D’Antoni

The Rockets have certainly not been bereft of drama, on or off the hardwood. After subtracting Chris Paul and adding Russell Westbrook this summer to be James Harden‘s new backcourt mate, Houston has struggled. The club is currently 4-3, the eighth seed in a loaded Western Conference.

As Houston prepares for a Wednesday home bout against a Warriors team missing as many as five starters, let’s take a look at more Rockets notes:

  • Following a lopsided 129-100 defeat to the 5-1 Heat, the job security of Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has been questioned, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com. “This is gonna stick with the FO (front office) for a while,” one coach texted Deveney during Sunday’s blowout. D’Antoni’s current contract with the Rockets expires at the end of the season.
  • Despite the Rockets’ rocky 4-3 start to the regular season, including that forgettable showing on Sunday, GM Daryl Morey considers the ceiling for the new-look Rockets to be extremely high, according to a conversation with The Athletic Houston’s Kelly Iko. “I really think we could be the best offense ever put on the floor,” Morey said. “Now we’ll see if we can back that up, but our transition has been really good. Obviously, last year, we were one of the best halfcourt teams ever. There have been times where we’ve combined those two things and looked really good. Sometimes our transition has fallen off, sometimes our half-court (offense). But if we pull it together like I think we can, I think we’ll be the best offense in the league and a top-10 defense. That’ll be a formula to win the title.”
  • In the same interview, Morey acknowledges a desire to improve the team’s defense. The team is currently ranked 28th in defensive efficiency, according to NBA.com“We’re going to be a good defensive team. Obviously there’s been, you know, some things that don’t look good so far. But I have a lot of confidence that we’re going to be one of the top-10 defensive teams by the end of the year… To be a championship-caliber team, you gotta be a top-10 defense.”
  • Notably, Morey’s new Q&A with Iko doesn’t touch on the controversy stemming from the GM’s summer tweet supporting the Hong Kong protests against mainland China. That message prompted China to suspend all business ties with the Rockets. Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports thinks Morey needs to address what became the big story of the NBA preseason, as he notes in a recent opinion column.

Tilman Fertitta Never Considered Discipline For Daryl Morey

In the latest news on the NBA’s ongoing controversy with China, Sopan Deb of The New York Times writes that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, despite publicly distancing himself and his franchise from the now-famous tweet by general manager Daryl Morey, never considered firing or even punishing Morey.

Interestingly, however, there was no explanation as to why Fertitta began liking posts on Instagram supportive of Morey’s firing then, but Fertitta did explain why he was – and still is – not okay with Morey’s tweet.

In a written explanation, Fertitta said that he needed to initially distance the Rockets from Morey because he “felt it was important to make the distinction between Daryl speaking as a private citizen and Daryl as a representative of the Houston Rockets… (and the Rockets) have never commented on another country’s foreign policy.”

Deb notes, however, that Fertitta himself has been willing to speak on politics before without distancing the Rockets from his views. Accordingly, Fertitta was asked whether he’d be comfortable with his employees publicly voicing their political views in the future. He declined to comment.

Chinese Television Lashes Out At Silver, Morey

China has vowed “retribution” against NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for his role in last week’s standoff between the nation and the league, writes Catherine Wong of The South China Morning Post (hat tip to NBC Sports).

In a commentary that aired today, state-run CCTV claims Silver “crossed the bottom line” with his continued support of Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who set off the dispute with an Oct. 4 tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Silver said this week that Chinese officials had demanded that Morey be fired, but the commissioner refused to take any disciplinary action, citing the right to free speech. However, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, disputed that claim yesterday.

“Silver has spared no effort to portray himself as a fighter for free speech and used freedom of speech as an excuse to cover for Morey, who voiced his support for the violent actors in Hong Kong,” CCTV said. “This has crossed the bottom line of the Chinese people.”

The broadcast also accused Silver of having “double standards” and charged that he “defamed” China in front of an international audience.

“To please some American politicians, Silver has fabricated lies out of nothing and has sought to paint China as unforgiving,” CCTV claimed. The network also accused Morey of having “problems in his character” and promised he “will receive retribution sooner or later.”

Adam Silver: China Wanted Daryl Morey Fired

OCTOBER 18: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang has said the Chinese government didn’t demand Morey’s firing, per an Associated Press report.

OCTOBER 17: Appearing on Thursday at the TIME 100 Health Summit (link via Sean Gregory of TIME), NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Robin Roberts that the Chinese government wanted Rockets general manager Daryl Morey fired in the wake of his tweet expressing support for protestors in Hong Kong. However, the league refused to entertain that idea.

“We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver said. “We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”

After Morey published and then deleted his tweet, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta issued a statement saying that the GM didn’t speak for the franchise and that the Rockets aren’t a “political organization.” However, that was about as far as the team or the league went in denouncing Morey. Silver later made a statement saying that the NBA supported Morey’s freedom of expression, a point he reiterated during his conversation with Roberts.

“These American values — we are an American business — travel with us wherever we go,” Silver said. “And one of those values is free expression. We wanted to make sure that everyone understood we were supporting free expression.”

Silver also said last week that he and the NBA understand that freedom of expression doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, and the league has been feeling the financial consequences of the China controversy.

At the TIME event on Thursday, the NBA commissioner said the league is not only “willing” to cope with lost revenues from China, but that it already is coping with those losses, which have been “substantial.”

“I don’t know where we go from here,” Silver said. “The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”

NBA/China Notes: Lakers, Nets, Rockets

While a debate raged stateside last week over the NBA’s handling of a controversy fueled by a Daryl Morey tweet expressing support for Hong Kong protestors, Lakers and Nets players found themselves in the eye of the storm as they prepared to play a pair of exhibition games in China. As Shams Charania of The Athletic and ESPN’s Rachel Nichols report, those players met with commissioner Adam Silver to discuss potential next steps when he arrived in Shanghai last Wednesday.

Charania describes Silver as being “extremely thoughtful and transparent” in talks with Lakers and Nets players, coaches, and executives, while Nichols refers to the meeting as “tense.” Multiple sources tell Charania that LeBron James said he believed Silver and the NBA had a responsibility to talk to the media about the situation in more depth before asking the players to do so. Players also spoke about wanting to feel safe and protected during the China trip without being put into unfair positions, Charania notes.

“Being in China, where there was no way of knowing what the Chinese government was thinking or going to do next and the high stakes between the U.S. and China politically, it was almost impossible for these young players to manage through that situation,” a source with knowledge of the meeting told Charania. “Obviously, if they were in the United States or somewhere else, it would have been totally different and handled differently.”

The exhibition games in Shanghai and Shenzhen took place as scheduled, though there was some skepticism earlier in the week that they would happen at all. According to Charania, a “sizeable amount” of players on the Lakers and Nets felt as if it would be best to cancel those games due to the ongoing chaos.

With both teams now back in America, here’s the last on the NBA/China saga:

  • Sources told Charania that some Lakers and Nets players lost money over broken deals in Shanghai, since they ended up not making planned sponsorship appearances. Charania also reports that at least two Rockets players had sponsorship negotiations with Chinese companies hit an impasse in the wake of Morey’s tweet.
  • Several executive and ownership sources who spoke to Charania believe Silver will “regain a foothold” in the league’s relationship with China, but fear “irreparable losses” for the Rockets going forward. China’s response to Morey’s tweet may end up costing the Rockets approximately $25MM in sponsorship money this season, one source estimates to Marc Stein of The New York Times.
  • During last week’s meeting with Lakers and Nets players in Shanghai, Silver was asked directly whether anything would happen to Morey, per ESPN’s report. According to ESPN, multiple players said they thought that if a player cost the league millions of dollars with a tweet, there would be repercussions. Morey won’t face any discipline from the league, which seems like the right call, since his message ostensibly showed support for human rights and democracy.
  • Tom Ziller of SBNation explores the two potential paths the NBA/China controversy could take from here.

Tension Between NBA, China Continues To Grow

Several days after Rockets general manager Daryl Morey deleted his now-infamous tweet expressing support for protestors in Hong Kong, the NBA and its partners in China don’t appear to be moving any closer to resolving the controversy it created.

Early on Tuesday morning, NBA commissioner Adam Silver followed up on the brief statement issued by the league on Sunday by publishing a new, lengthier statement which sought to clarify the NBA’s stance on the situation. In the statement, which can be read in full right here, Silver offered the following thoughts:

“Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China. We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.

“At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs. And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world.

“But for those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.

“Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.

“… It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.

“However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.”

In response to Silver’s latest missive, the Chinese state-run television network CCTV announced it would be suspending its broadcasting agreement for NBA preseason games, writes Arjun Kharpal of CNBC.

As Stephen Wade and Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press explain, the Lakers and Nets are scheduled to play in Shanghai in Thursday and Shenzen on Saturday, and while those games are expected to proceed as planned, they won’t be aired by CCTV. Silver admitted the league wasn’t expecting the network to take those measures, per The Associated Press.

“But if those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it’s very, very important to adhere to those values,” the NBA commissioner said.

It’s not clear if the “temporary” broadcast suspension will last into the regular season, but CCTV issued a statement in Chinese (translated by MSNBC) making it clear that it wasn’t happy with the stance taken by Silver and the NBA:

“We are strongly dissatisfied and we oppose Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right of free expression. We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

According to comments relayed by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link), Silver still intends to attend Thursday’s exhibition contest in Shanghai and hopes to meet with the appropriate officials there to find common ground with the league’s partners in China. However, he added that he’s a “realist” and recognizes that the issue may not be resolved quickly.

Silver also said that he plans to meet this week with Yao Ming, the former Rockets center who is now the chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association (Twitter link via Rachel Nichols of ESPN).

I’m hoping together Yao and I can find an accommodation, but he is extremely hot at the moment and I understand it,” Silver said.

While Silver’s latest press release asserted that the NBA’s stance is about more than “growing [its] business,” the commissioner acknowledged to Joel Fitzpatrick of Kyodo News on Monday that the controversy has already affected the league’s bottom line. According to The Associated Press’ report, the NBA’s agreement with Chinese streaming partner Tencent, which has said it will no longer show Rockets games, is worth $1.5 billion over the next five years.

However, Silver insisted that that those business issues wouldn’t affect the league’s support of Morey and others exercising their freedom of expression.

“There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” he told Fitzpatrick. “There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have. I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear…that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.”

Latest On NBA’s Morey/China Controversy

As we relayed on Sunday, the Chinese Basketball Association and other business in China have suspended their relations with the Rockets in the wake of a Daryl Morey tweet in which the Houston general manager expressed support for protestors in Hong Kong. Although Morey deleted the tweet and the Rockets and the NBA made efforts to walk it back, the league remains in a tenuous spot, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

The NBA issued a statement on Sunday, calling it “regrettable” that Morey’s tweet had offended “many of our friends and fans in China” and noting that Morey’s tweet didn’t represent the Rockets or the NBA. However, the league doesn’t intend to fine, suspend, or otherwise punish the Houston GM, sources tell Zillgitt.

Interestingly, the NBA’s statement also looked a little different in Chinese than it did in English, according to Yanan Wang of The Associated Press. In Chinese, the league referred to Morey’s tweet as “inappropriate,” a word that didn’t show up in the English statement. League spokesperson Mike Bass said today that the discrepancy wasn’t intentional (Twitter link via Zillgitt).

The NBA has to walk a fine line in this controversy, since the league typically hasn’t discouraged its coaches, players, and executives from speaking up about political and social justice causes that matter to them. In this case though, it’s clear that the NBA’s business interests in China’s massive market are influencing the league’s decision to distance itself from Morey’s initial comments and to placate its Chinese partners.

Here’s more on the controversy:

  • John Gonzalez of The Ringer cited league sources who claim that the Rockets have debated Morey’s employment status and whether to replace him. However, several reporters – including Sam Amick of USA Today, Jerome Solomon of The Houston Chronicle, and Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (all Twitter links) – have heard from sources that’s not the case and that Morey’s job isn’t in jeopardy.
  • Morey hasn’t apologized for his initial tweet, but issued a follow-up statement in which he stressed that he didn’t intend any offense and expressed his appreciation for “our Chinese fans and sponsors.”
  • Rockets star James Harden, who has participated in promotional tours in China in the past, was among those in damage-control mode this weekend, per an ESPN report. “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” Harden said. “For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.”
  • New Nets owner Joe Tsai issued an open letter to fans (via Facebook) providing more context on the situation in Hong Kong and China and criticizing Morey for not being “as well informed as he should have been.” Tsai’s framing of the Hong Kong protests as a “separatist movement,” rather than a fight for civil rights and democracy, echoes language used by the Chinese government. It’s worth noting that no NBA owner is more invested in China than Tsai, the co-founder of Alibaba Group.
  • The Chinese Basketball Association has cancelled the G League exhibition games between the Rockets‘ and Mavericks‘ affiliates scheduled to take place in the country later this month, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • For more analysis on the saga, be sure to check out pieces from Chris Mannix of SI.com, Daniel Victor of The New York Times, and Adam Zagoria of Forbes.

China Suspends Ties With Rockets After Daryl Morey Tweet

A tweet by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has pushed the team into an international incident, explains an ESPN story.

The Chinese Basketball Association announced this morning that it will suspend cooperation with the Rockets after Morey expressed his support for protesters in Hong Kong who are demanding democratic reforms. Morey’s now-deleted tweet read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

On its Weibo account today, the CBA blasted Morey for “improper remarks regarding Hong Kong” and expressed “strong opposition” to his statement. The controversy comes as the Rockets are in Japan for a pair of games with the Raptors.

China has maintained a close relationship with the Rockets ever since current CBA Chairman Yao Ming was drafted by Houston in 2002. The Rockets wear an alternate jersey that features Chinese lettering, and James Harden conducted a promotional tour of the nation this summer.

China is also an extremely important market for the NBA as it expands its overseas popularity. It has become the nation’s most popular foreign sports league, with China playing host to the World Cup last month.

Among those reacting to Morey’s tweet when it appeared Friday was Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who stressed that the franchise should not serve as a platform for political views.

“Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the Houston Rockets,” Fertitta tweeted. “Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”

Fertitta stressed to ESPN that he still has full confidence in Morey as a GM and the incident won’t affect his job security.

“I have the best general manager in the league,” Fertitta said. “Everything is fine with Daryl and me. We got a huge backlash, and I wanted to make clear that the organization has no political position. We’re here to play basketball and not to offend anybody.”